‘Stunning’ countryside park vision for closed Exeter pitch and putt golf course is revealed

A shut Exeter pitch and putt golf course could be turned into a countryside park it is hoped will attract 100,000 visitors a year. 

Northbrook Approach Golf Course, in Topsham Road, would be transformed and enriched with wildflowers, new trees, a community orchard and wetlands, ponds and pools to enhance biodiversity.

Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) and Exeter City Council have revealed a joint-proposal to convert the land into a tranquil, wildlife-rich green space featuring a ‘wild arboretum’.

The council’s executive will decide whether to approve a public consultation on the plans when it meets on Tuesday, February 11.

A report by director David Bartram to councillors states: “The Northbrook Approach site occupies a crucial strategic location which links two of the city’s most significant green spaces; Ludwell and Riverside.

“The site performs a critical function for the movement of wildlife and it also represents a potential natural infrastructure connection for people to move between parks and could provide traffic-free routes into the Quayside areas, Marsh Barton and the city centre beyond.

“A wide range of organisations have indicated their interest in the future of the land.

“A joint-approach by Exeter City Council and Devon Wildlife Trust will ensure that communities are placed at the heart of future decisions regarding this important space.”

The vision for the former Northbrook Approach site includes:

  • A ‘wild arboretum’ – the tree-studded parkland would be enriched with wildflowers and newly-planted standard trees;
  • A community orchard – orchard trees providing fruit for local communities to harvest;
  • ‘Wilding the Northbrook’ – new wetlands, ponds and pools would provide space for people to access the water’s edge and observe the range of wildlife supported;
  • ‘Linking greenspaces – DWT would manage the site to enhance its critical role as a crucial green corridor between the Ludwell and Riverside valley parks, and as a pivotal link for people to enjoy these local green spaces and to explore further afield;
  • A hub for learning and communities – the Riverside and Ludwell Masterplan identified the need for visitor hubs. DWT and the city council have begun to discuss options for siting a flagship visitor facility at Riverside.
Exeter City Council leader Phil Bialyk at Northbrook Approach Golf Course.

Exeter City Council leader Phil Bialyk at Northbrook Approach Golf Course.

The vision document adds: “Without the constraints of a golf course there is an opportunity to bring the parkland to life as a stunning space for visitors to enjoy and to interact with wildlife.

“DWT proposes to create a high-carrying capacity site where we would establish new all-weather pathways and trails to help people to explore the whole site, include benches and pause points where people can gather, play, or simply enjoy the scenery.

“We would introduce natural play, establish wildflower meadows amongst the trees to provide stunning displays and to help many more insects and pollinators to thrive, plant and nurture new trees and orchards to support many more species for the long-term, and encourage people to enjoy the blossom and pick the fruit.”

On the visitor hub idea, the document says: “The key driver for this is the huge potential at Riverside to draw visitors from around the city as well as beyond, to connect with the nearby historic Quayside and activity hub at Haven Banks, and to open up the Riverside Valley Park as a flagship green space for natural activity and leisure.

“Refreshment facilities at Bromham’s Farm Field would enable visitors to stay longer and do more in this special place and we would provide trails, leisure facilities, natural play and opportunities for outdoor pursuits on and around an enhanced wetland site on the Exe River and Canal banks.

“We would aim for around 100,000 visitors each year.”

The vision concludes: “The Northbrook Approach site presents a fantastic opportunity to establish, enhance and safeguard a crucial natural infrastructure corridor in the city and it holds the key to unlocking the greatest potential of the two largest Valley Parks, Riverside and Ludwell.

“This is a perfect opportunity to work together to develop a proposal for the future of this strategically crucial site.

“We propose to work in partnership to engage a diverse range of communities and stakeholders in the local area about the potential for the site as a Wild Arboretum and a community space.”

Former proposals initially revealed early in 2019 would have seen the golf course closed and the land disposed of.

However, city council leader Phil Bialyk reversed that decision in June.

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